Colintraive and Glendaruel Development Trust (ColGlen) was formed in 2008 and aspires to tackle a range of challenges facing the local area.
The group’s vision is: “By the year 2021, ColGlen will be a vibrant community with a growing economy and with the ability to attract young economically active families whilst sustaining a high quality of life and safeguarding our natural and cultural resources.”
The two villages are ten miles apart and the community spans twenty miles. Diminishing resident populations, particularly young people and the reduction in local businesses has resulted in the deterioration of local services.
Aspirations are broad, ranging from aesthetic improvements to the villages to community ownership of a number of assets.
Their main focus to date has been on the acquisition of 615 ha of Stronafian Forest.
The beginning – HIE’s involvement / Mar a tha HIE an sàs
ColGlen was successful in securing funding in 2009 from LEADER and the local Cruach Mor Windfarm Trust, which enabled them to employ a development officer.
Learning of HIE’s Community Account Management (CAM) programme, they were eager to be involved and formally became a CAM area. Initially, the group did not require development officer funding but benefitted from the relationship with HIE and associated training and networking opportunities, as well as the community survey and the process of producing a community plan.
From the outset the group was eager to secure ownership of Stronafian Forest from the Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS).
They saw potential to create jobs locally, offer solutions to housing problems, provide training, reduce fuel costs and provide a range of recreational opportunities.
Valued at £1.55 million, they recognised that they were unlikely to be able to attract sufficient public funding to secure the site and knew that they could not source that level of funds from the local area. Undeterred they began looking into private-community partnerships.
HIE supported the group with specialist advice to draw up a robust business plan which appealed not only to the Forestry Commission and the requirements of their National Forest Land Scheme, but also to commercial timber companies.
The group identified and began negotiations with a company which agreed to provide £1.3 million up front for a 99-year lease of much of the forest area.
HIE was keen to ensure that the interests of the community were protected in all lease negotiations and was able to provide £9,750 (50%) towards the expert legal advice through the Community Assets Team (CAT); FCS funded the remaining 50%.
In addition, the group received CAT advice not only for their application to HIE, but also to the Scottish Land Fund (SLF). They successfully secured £74,845 from HIE and £310,000 from the Scottish Land Fund - the first project awarded funds under the programme.
ColGlen took ownership of Stronafian Forest on 31st January 2013 and have just employed their forest manager.
It is anticipated that up to four affordable housing plots will be provided, up to six woodland croft sites, recreation and education opportunities for the whole community and visitors; as well as local wood fuel and potential employment through the commercial partner.
HIE will continue to work with ColGlen as a CAM area to support their aspirations where appropriate.
Helen Macdougall, Tel. 01546 605444